Meta's Twitter rival Threads won't initially launch in the EU

The EU's more stringent data transfer rules may be the cause.

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Meta's rival to Twitter called Threads, an Instagram app is set to launch tomorrow in the US and UK, but it may not come to the rest of Europe anytime soon. A Meta spokesperson told Ireland's Data Protection Commission that the service will not be rolled out in the EU "at this point," has reported.

The DPC is not blocking the service — instead, it's Meta that has "not yet prepared the service for a European launch outside the UK, which is not fully governed by GDPR or EU privacy rules," according to the report.

Meta confirmed the report to Engadget, saying that Threads will only launch tomorrow in the UK and US, and not elsewhere in Europe, though it will arrive there eventually. According to people familiar with the matter, the delay is largely due to the EU's upcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA) set to take effect in 2024. As one of seven tech giant "Gatekeepers," Meta wants to ensure it's in compliance with the DMA, particularly around rules for sharing data between apps.

That's a particular concern for Threads, as it's built on Instagram infrastructure and may import data from Instagram, including advertising and behavior information, according to the policy listed on its iOS App Store page. Meta is likely being careful given the EU's strict penalties for non-compliance — it recently fined WhatsApp €225 million ($266.8 million at the time) for not providing enough detail on how it shares EU user data with Facebook.

The EU also recently hit Meta with a ruling that it must obtain consent from users before delivering personalized ads in the region. Prior to that, the company was fined €390 million EU (about $425 million) for not receiving consent before serving up such ads. However, the delayed launch of Threads is not due to any specific privacy issues, according to Engadget's sources.

Threads is arriving amidst issues with Twitter like "rate limits" on tweets and degraded service for the power-user app Tweetdeck. Many of Twitter's active users have been seeking an alternative with apps like Bluesky and Mastodon, but some see Threads as the most viable option due to Meta's scale. That's despite any reservations they may have about CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook's track record on privacy and other issues.

Update 7/5/2022 10:53 AM ET: The article has been updated with additional reporting and a confirmation from Meta.

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